Byron Stroud

Strapping Young Lad

Fresh from a European tour with Strapping Young Lad, Byron Stroud took some time out of relaxing to tell me his thoughts and feelings about the new record and upcoming tour, and even some secrets behind his magic. I have to admit I was extremely excited when I found out I would be interviewing with Byron. He has been one of my favorite bassists for years and is one of my influences in my own bass playing. So, this was a definite honor on my part and I whole heartedly thank Byron and the people from Century Media Records and Adrenaline PR for this interview.
By Katrina Cannon
July 10, 2005
Byron Stroud (Strapping Young Lad) interview
How are things going?

Things are alright, just got back from Europe a few days ago so we're just relaxing here for a couple of days before we get started up again.

How did that tour go?

It was really good. We ended up only playing like 10 shows, 2 of which were festivals. One in Holland called The Gods of Metal, and one in Italy which was killer, we played with Iron Maiden, Slayer, Mastodon, Obituary, Lacuna Coil, and Mudvayne; it was a really good show.

Back in March, you guys ran a contest letting a fan design the new tour shirt. What made you guys decide to do that?

Well, we just thought we had some ideas of our own, but we basically wanted this crazy outer space bulldozer thing, it was an idea that Gene [Hoglan, drums] came up with. We had a local artist that kind of dropped the ball, so we thought we would put it on the website to see what kind of design people can come up with. We thought it would be a good way to get the fans involved. It worked out, 'cause the one we ended up picking was pretty much exactly what we were looking for.

Your latest album, Alien, was released back in March. How did the recording go?

It was pretty crazy because I was actually on tour with Fear Factory when they first started recording it. They ended up doing the drum tracks without me and Gene is pretty fast at doing drums, so he actually had all the drum tracks done in one day and he just came back the next day to make sure they were right and didn't have to fix anything. From there we went into a studio, basically just a big room where we could set up a couple of rigs and finish everything up at once. It's a pretty intense record, so a lot of the guitars and bass parts took a few more days than they normally would and the backing vocals took weeks to nail down. Overall it took probably 2-3 months just to get all the recording done on it. Editing took quite a long time. But because there's so much going on in Strapping's music, it's definitely not your standard recording session. Everyone has to pitch in and do editing and punch buttons just to make it work, 'cause it takes forever to make things happen.

How do you feel about playing on The Sounds of The Underground Tour with such an array of Metal bands?

We're excited. It will give Strapping a chance to play in front of a lot of fans, especially in America, that haven't seen the band before. They maybe have heard us but maybe don't know what we're all about, so it gives them a chance to see us and we're excited about that. We do this sort of thing in Europe all the time and it's good because we get to play in front of a lot of people, but in the States we rarely get this opportunity, so we're definitely looking forward to it.

What are your plans for after this tour?

Well, myself personally, I'm going on the Jack Daniels Tour with Fear Factory right from The Sound of the Underground Tour. I know Devon [Townsend, vocals & guitar] will be doing his solo record in August or September and then we'll probably start Strapping back up at the end of September or the beginning of October and finish off the year touring.

What are some of your most memorable tour moments?

There's so many things that have happened and it just becomes everyday routine. Some people might think these things are crazy but it's just everyday stuff for us. I have to say it's just the good shows that we play, especially on the last European tour, some of the festivals were amazing. It's not everyday that we get to play in front of 20,000 people and have them totally into it and singing along. So, I have to say those are the most memorable tour moments for me.

How did you come to be in both Strapping Young Lad and Fear Factory?

Well, I've known the guys in Fear Factory a long time even before they released their first record. I met them and hung out with them. Strapping has opened for Fear Factory in Europe and they recorded the record in Vancouver. So, over the years I've basically been their friend and when it came time for them to look for a bass player my name had come up as one of the three guys they had in mind. I was the easiest one to get, I guess, out of the three and the time was right 'cause I didn't have anything going on so I jumped at the opportunity.

Is it difficult to be in two mainstream bands, especially with totally different music style?

It is, actually. It wasn't so bad last year 'cause we weren't really touring with Strapping. We were just writing, so it gave me a lot of opportunities to go out and do other things. But now it's all starting to catch up with me [Laughs]. With the Sounds of the Underground Tour and the Jack Daniels Tour overlapping I may have to miss a couple of shows here and there which kind of sucks. But as far as the music styles, in the beginning it was kind of hard, I had to teach myself a whole new style of bass playing to play in Fear Factory. But now that I've gotten it, it's pretty easy and I really enjoy it, it's kind of expanded my playing a lot.

What are some of your musical influences?

I have many. Mostly it's stuff from when I grew up, stuff my older brother listened to, like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Nazareth, AC/DC, all that kind of stuff. It wasn't until I was 14 when I started listening to Metallica and Slayer and all the Bay area Thrash bands that were around at the time, so that's kind of how I knew what I wanted to play when I heard that kind of music. I can say my influences are everything from classic Rock to the Bay area Thrash scene to even the Seattle sounds like The Melvins - and Soundgarden were big influences on me later.

How do you get your bass sound? You have such a distinct sound. How do you do it?

A lot of the bass tone comes from my picking style basically. Over the years I've developed a style. You have to really dig into the strings, especially playing Metal. And if you have a good picking style, a good right hand, in my case, you can almost make any bass and any amp sound good. You've just got to know how to finesse it and play it. But overall I like to use 2 separate amps, 2 separate tones. I'll use an Ampeg SVT-4 Pro for my low end, so through my cabinet I'll run strictly subs, no mids, no highs on the amp, just all low end. And through the other amp I'll usually run like an Ampeg pre amp through an Ampeg SVT-2 Pro for power and I'll just have all distortion. Then I'll use an amp switcher so I can use both at the same time and then just dial it in basically, like 60% distortion sound and 40% sub sound, and that's how I get my overall tone.

I've been playing bass for about 10 years. I've got an SWR MoBass kit and I've been trying forever to find a distinct sound. I keep messing with the levels but I just can't find that tone that I'm looking for.

You know, you should see if you can split your signal into 2 and then you can run all subs in one. I found that once I went to the 2 sounds together, that's when my bass sound really came together for me. I used to run just an SVT through an 8x10 and then it was like it was almost there. I was trying to get the 2 sounds in one and when I finally separated the 2 that's when it all came together.

Your bass sound in Fear Factory and the bass sound of Dick Lovgren (Meshuggah) and Ryan Martinie (Mudvayne) is so distinct, you all have a distinct bass sound. I'd like to get something similar, but not exactly copying anybody.

Basically what we do is the same [Laughs]. All of us do the same thing, but what comes into play is our style, that's what changes it a little bit. But the actual amp set up is pretty much the same. If I were to take my bass and plug it into Ryan's rig, I'd probably have the exact same sound that I have with Strapping and Fear Factory. And the same goes for him, we just use different basses, he uses active pick up and I use passive. And it's just basic little playing styles like that. Like he uses his fingers, but he still attacks the bass a lot and I use a pick so I can get the growl a lot easier.

Any Last Words?

Yeah, I just want to see everyone this summer. I've got two wicked tours happening, so everybody come out and support and say hi, it'll be fun!

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